One day after retired Triple Crown star Justify bid his fans adieu at Del Mar, the juvenile that trainer Bob Baffert reportedly tabbed as his next Justify made a winning career debut – Speedway Stable’s Roadster. The 4-5 favorite in Sunday’s 6TH race was given a patient ride by Hall of Famer Mike Smith, but unleashed an eye-catching move on the far turn and strolled home as he pleased.
Unlike Baffert’s other hotshot two-year-old winner of the weekend, American Pharoah’s half-sister Chasing Yesterday, Roadster did not race up on the pace. The $525,000 Keeneland September yearling kept hesitating when asked to enter the starting gate. Smith hopped off, and one of the gate crew opened the door to post 1, to persuade Roadster to walk in. The gray colt acquiesced, Smith climbed back on board, and he was set. When the gate opened, though, he did not break as fast as most of the others.
Smith’s Hall of Fame instincts ameliorated a potentially tricky situation. He asked Roadster just enough to scramble him into a stalking position, then took a hold and got him nice and settled four lengths back in third.
After an opening quarter in :22.05, an observer might have thought that Roadster was being outpaced. On the contrary, he hadn’t really begun to run. He rapidly improved out wide on the far turn, drew up to a length behind the leader at the half in :46.20, and dusted them in a few strides.
Smith was a passenger the rest of the way, sitting chilly as Roadster widened his advantage to 4 1/4 lengths at the wire. The 61-1 Istanbul rallied for second, and Jefe came from even further back to grab third.
Roadster, who negotiated six furlongs in 1:11.07, is nominated to the September 3 Del Mar Futurity (G1). Judging by his debut score, he may already want seven furlongs.
By Quality Road – sire of such current celebrities as champion Abel Tasman, Salty, Spring Quality, and City of Light – Roadster is a half-brother to last year’s Manhattan H. (G1) hero Ascend as well as Grade 3-placed turfer Moro Tap. They are out of the stakes-winning Silver Ghost mare Ghost Dancing.
Yet another graduate of the 2011 Edward P. Evans dispersal to add to her late owner/breeder’s legacy, Ghost Dancing was scooped up by Arthur Hancock of Stone Farm for $220,000. Hancock, perhaps best known for his role in raising and co-owning all-time great Sunday Silence, co-bred two other Kentucky Derby (G1) winners in Gato Del Sol (1982) and Fusaichi Pegasus (2000). More recently, his Stone Farm bred Baffert’s highly regarded 2017 Derby hopeful, Mastery, whose unbeaten career was cut short by injury before he had his chance at Churchill Downs.
Roadster’s third dam, Grade 1 queen Dance Teacher, scored her signature win in the 1 1/4-mile Ladies H. (G1) in 1989. She is also the ancestress of 2014 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) victor Hootenanny, like Roadster a son of Quality Road.
The marriage of Quality Road with this family makes particularly good sense, since he’s an Evans homebred himself.